The Law Commission of India on the first day of consultation had put forth the proposal of holding simultaneous polls to the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies. While the political parties are having a riff over opposing or adapting the idea of ‘One Nation, One Election’, here the question arises that is it viable to have the simultaneous election policy in a diverse country like India with multiple parties, castes, religions, languages and a vast population of over 120 crores?
The Commission had earlier written to all the national and regional parties seeking their views on the matter and invited them to participate in the discussions on July 7, 8, and 11 on the feasibility of conducting simultaneous elections. The meeting comes in the backdrop of the Election Commission’s repeated claim that it is capable of holding simultaneous elections, provided that the legal framework and logistics were in place. However, the Law Commission is of the view that before undertaking a reform, all the parties must be taken into confidence.
Election Commission Information Officer Swami Sharan stated, “Initially, the Election Commission recommended ‘One Nation, One Election’ in 2016. To implement the policy there is a need of amendment in the Constitution. This process will take time as until there is an amendment in the Constitution, it is not possible. Hence, it depends on the amendment process.”
With the amendment in approaching ‘One Nation, One Election’, many political experts believe that various aspects in terms of the basic structure of the Constitution of India is being tampered in the proposal, which the Supreme Court in previous governments has strictly forbidden. Secondly, such a move would threaten federalism in addressing the question of when and how the Parliament or the various State Legislative Assembles would be dissolved.
TMC MP Kalyan Banerjee commented, “It is not possible as it does not have any constitutional scope. We cannot change the basic structural framework of the Constitution. It is not practically possible. If any government fails to run or any government collapse in a state, then will we have to contest an election in the entire nation? The Constitution amendment is needed to be done to adapt the ‘One Nation, One Election’. Although even if there is some amendment, it will be a violation of the basic structure of our Constitution.”
Amongst the parties participated in the discussion, the Janata Dal (United), Samajwadi Party and Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) had come out in the support of ‘One Nation, One Election’ or simultaneous elections. The political parties in Tamil Nadu opposed the Law Commission’s proposal, claiming it a bad idea. DMK working president MK Stalin rejected the idea of simultaneous elections, which has been branded as ‘One India, One Election’, on behalf of his party. Stalin wrote a letter to the Law Commission stating, “DMK is of the firm opinion that the proposed call for simultaneous elections to Lok Sabha and State Legislatures goes against the basic tenets of our Constitution.” Earlier, Trinamool Congress described the concept of ‘One Nation, One Election’ as “impractical and unconstitutional”.
Congress spokesperson Dr. Raju Waghmare expressed, “It is a wrong concept and not possible practically. General elections and legislative assemblies have different agendas and memorandum. This concept is false and foolish. It will create a mess. This is the conspiracy of BJP to create anarchy in the nation. So we oppose this decision, elections should be held as it used to be previously because this amendment will be a move to change the Constitution. It is also a move to break the basic structure of the Constitution.”
The Commission has said that it is acting on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘call to start a constructive dialogue’ on the matter. Modi who took over as the PM in May 2014, had been pitching the idea for simultaneous election to cut the expenses, diversion of security and civil staff from primary duties; impact on governance due to the model code of conduct, disruption to normal public life, and give more free hands to the governments to work.
BJP Maharashtra Chief spokesperson Madhav Bhandari explained, “In our country, we held such One Nation, One Elections till 1977. The Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections are being conducted simultaneously from 20 years. Indira Gandhi took a mid-term poll and broke the election cycle. So, this change will not be a new thing in our country. In such case, there is no violation of any constitutional provisions nor there is any amendment in the basic structure of the Constitution. To take such an election, there is no need for an amendment. If the Election Commission decides to take this initiative, it can be possible. Our ideology is to save administrative power, money, time, human resource and it can prove beneficial for the country. This initiative is being put forth now because there was no Lok Sabha election previously after 2014.”
It is considered by the political analyst that the idea of ‘One Nation, One Election’ is good, the reasons justifying the idea are weak. However, if the elections are simultaneous, how would that be accounted? It also raises a point of imbalance in the federal structure of the government making it unconvincing. Even the one-time ally of BJP, the TDP has also opposed the idea of simultaneous polls saying implementing such an idea will weaken the regional forces.
By Twinkle Mehta